Monday, October 3, 2011


Well. I did it. I kept running the Milwaukee Marathon a secret from everyone (well, except my family, Ryan's family and of course Coach Cari). It's not that I did it to be sneaky. I didn't tell anyone because (1) I wasn't sure I'd run it as everything depended on the weather and how my body was feeling after 8 days in Spain and (2) I didn't want any pressure going into the race.

I think it's safe to say that anyone who knows me knows of my goal to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Trials. To do this, I need to run a sub-2:46 marathon, or 26.2miles at a 6:20 pace. Up until Sunday, 10/2, my PR was a 2:56, which is a 6:45 pace. Yes, I realize I really have my work cut out for me, but I also know that Cari is THE most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to running, so for her to believe that I can do it really means a lot.

After seeing the 10-day forecast for Chicago (53 low/73high), Cari and I decided that Milwaukee (42low/63high) would be the best way to go. Milwaukee does have a few "hills" compared to Chicago, but generally those work in my favor anyway so we figured I'd be okay. Plus, with a slight hamstring issue, waiting a week could slightly elevate the problem and with my go-to masseuse in Ireland, I decided that running a week early might be my best bet.

Going to the start line, I felt awesome. I felt calm, cool and collected and just ready to bust out this huge PR. Granted, I truly didn't believe I'd qualify unless EVERYTHING went right, but I knew I'd bust out a 2:48 at least. Or that's what I thought until mile 10...

Mile 1- 6:24. Amber Druien ran with the pacer and I made it my goal to stay behind them, but within striking distance, for the first 3-4 miles as I like to start off slower and gradually pick things up. That felt easy. Bring it on.

Mile 2- 6:18. Oops. Little excited. Stay back, let the guys go ahead of you. You'll pick them off.

Mile 3- 6:32. Nice. Way to make up the average and keep the 6:25 pace going.

Mile 4- 6:18. Slight downhill, regroup and focus on staying around 6:19-6:21.

Mile 5-6:15. Holy cow. What is going on. Yeah this feels easy, but let's not get carried away. Took a gel here as well.

Mile 6- 6:28. A few rollers, but back on pace. Nice focus. I CAN do this.

Mile 7- 6:17. A total of 5 seconds off 6:20 pace, this is going well!

Mile 8- 6:20. PERFECT. Sweet.

Mile 9- 6:21. Dang. I should be a pacer.

Mile 10- 6:36. Holy hip lock up. I've never experienced this before. I called out to Mom and Nic, "My hips are locked, what do I do?!" Yeah, probably not the best idea (what were they really going to say in response?!), but I had no idea what was going on. Time for a gel.

Mile 11- 6:38. Your best time so far was run on negative splits--you CAN still do this. Hips are feeling a little better, right hamstring is KILLING, but you knew it had the possibility of limiting you in this race from the beginning.

Mile 12- 6:34. See, getting closer. 2:47 is the predicted finish time based on the split-caller-outer, so a 2:48 is still attainable.

Mile 13- 6:40. There were a few rollers in there. Compose yourself and focus on getting through these next 10 miles. Mile 23 is a huge downhill and can account for a drop of at least 30 seconds.

13.1-- 1:24:18. Again, Miss Negative Split, you CAN still run a 2:48. Stop focusing on the stupid hammy and start working!

Mile 14- 6:36. See?! Still doable. One more mile til you get to take a gel.

Mile 15- 6:44. This right hamstring seriously needs to just fall off. I don't need it. All it's doing is hurting me. Gel time. Ryan's here. Should I drop out? I'm too far off pace and am on pace for a 2:49 now. What do I do?!?!

Mile 16- 6:59. I seriously want to die. When did running a marathon become this hard? I only have single digits left (okay, 10.2 for all you technical people, but in my mind single digit mileage remaining is a lot easier to mentally handle). If I drop out now, I can maybe be okay in time for Monumental Marathon on November 5th. Ugh. What do I do?!

Mile 17- 6:50. Ryan, Dad, Mom and Nic all came here to watch me FINISH a marathon. I need to just suck it up and finish. If I maintain 6:50s, I'll still break 2:55 which is what is needed to gain free entry into most marathons as a female. Just stick it out.

Mile 18- 6:50. See, you can run 6:50s. Just stay focused. [Two guys passed me at this point saying that third place is 45-60 seconds back...ugh]

Mile 19- 6:46. And a downhill in 4 miles. Get through this. Almost left with a single 10k. Stop wimping out.

Mile 20- 6:49. Gel time. Thank God.

Mile 21- 6:45. Blazin'. 5miles to go. On pace for 2:53, I'll take that.

Mile 22- 7:09. Okay I seriously want to drop out now. For the past 12 miles, I haven't been able to get a full stride in and just feel like I'm shuffling (and yes, when I thought this, the LMFAO song came in my head). I literally wanted to call out to Ryan to help me...but somehow realized that there was no way he could help me.

Mile 23- 7:01. Some downhill that was. [looking back, it was a pretty nice downhill, but I just couldn't respond how I had wanted to] Time for another gel. Maybe that will get these legs up and running again.

Mile 24- 6:53. Maybe that was the effect of the 23rd mile downhill. All I have to do is run sub-7:10s for the last two miles and I'll be under 2:55. I honestly don't know if I can do this though.

Mile 25- 7:10. Okay, just one more of these. STOP WIMPING OUT.

Mile 26- 6:58. Woo hoo, finish is near!

.2- 1:20. THANK GOD. HOLY CRAP. I need medical attention. I'm numb in my hands and feet.

2:54:45. 2nd place female finisher. 2minute 12 second PR. Huge hug from the race director:)

I FINISHED! I hadn't finished a marathon since the 2010 Boston Marathon, so I didn't realize what a huge accomplishment this really was for me until I reflected on it today, the day after the race. Honestly, if my family and Ryan weren't there cheering for me, I would have dropped out. I don't like quitting things, but the amount of pain I was feeling in my hamstrings was unlike anything I've ever experienced, even running on stress fractures.

While I could reflect and ask myself why I went to Spain for 8 days acting like a tourist and walking around averaging 5+ miles a day 4 days before the marathon, or why I decided to run despite a slightly sore hamstring, I have just decided to leave it at the simple fact that everything happens for a reason. Milwaukee just wasn't the day for me. It doesn't mean I won't qualify, because I truly believe that I will. It just means that I need a little bit more time to train and really focus on my marathon.

I won't keep this one a secret: I'm signed up and ready to run a 2:45 at the California International Marathon on Saturday, December 5th. I already know a ton of fast females signed up, so I can't wait to get in on a sweaty "we qualified for the Trials" group hug!

The "calm" before the storm... September 25-October 1

Sunday, September 25: 4miles, fly to and spend one day in Barcelona
Monday, September 26: flight to Granada from Barcelona, sight-seeing (5000000 stairs), tempo
Tuesday, September 27: 9miles semi-unplanned
Wednesday, September 28: 4.5miles easy, 9hours of flying
Thursday, September 29: 3miles at Marathon Pace
Friday, September 30: 7miles easy
Saturday, October 1: 5miles + strides with LifeTime Run Club

Well. I kept the secret long enough.

Coach Cari and I had talked a little after the Batavia 1/2 marathon (Aug 28) about how my fitness levels really indicated that I was ready and could go run a 2:48 no problem the next weekend, so we thought if the conditions were perfect (i.e., low temps, little wind), the sub-2:46 was definitely attainable.

So we emailed the race director at Milwaukee (Lakefront Marathon) and she was incredibly accommodating and excited that I was hoping to qualify at her race. Another local runner, Amber Druien, was planning to make her OQT attempt there as well.

Every day that we had Internet in Spain, I was looking at the weather. The weather was the deciding factor in if I would run Milwaukee or Chicago. For those of you that don't know, in the past four years (2007-current), the Chicago Marathon has been HOT every year except 2009, which, go figure, is when I set my prior PR. In fact, in 2007, they shut the race down and a participant even passed away. I tend to bleed through my shoes from blisters when it's too hot, so I try to stay away from those kind of races!

Anyway, back to the training.....

Sunday was a bit rough. Ryan and his USA teammates (we were in Spain for the Duathlon World Championships) all went out for some vino y tapas and got back late as that's apparently how people do it in Spain. They did a really good job of trying to be quiet, but the darn apartment we were in was creaking like crazy and I just kept waking up. I only got about 4 hours of combined sleep at best...which resulted in a cold for the rest of the week. Thankfully, it was gone by Saturday.

Sunday we flew into Barcelona, spent 23 hours there just exploring (I HIGHLY recommend going here if you have a choice of where to go in Spain...more touristy, but lots to see--we totally ran out of time), and hopped on a plane again Monday morning to head to Granada. My aunt is a HUGE art nut, so when we heard about Antoni Gaudi's work in the area, we just had to explore it. Unfortunately, this meant climbing literally hundreds of stairs. My calves were PRETTY fired up, so I rocked the Zensah calf sleeves for most of Granada.

MONDAY: we arrived in Granada around 12noon, dropped our bags off at our hotel (which was right by the University of Granada--super cool!) and headed out to explore. The main tourist attraction here is the Alhambra. It is HIGHLY recommended to purchase tickets in advance as they sell 7,800 total each day and of that 7,800, only 1,000 are available for purchase the day of. Well, we didn't purchase ours in advance so we checked on Monday to see what time we needed to arrive--7:00am would ensure we'd receive tickets even though the ticket office doesn't open until 8am.

So, we had walked ALL the way up the SUPER steep incline that takes you to the Alhambra and had also been told to see the Mirador de San Nicolas as it's pretty much across from the Alhambra, has an awesome view of the city and has fun bars to just hang out and eat tapas at. After what seemed like an hour of climbing cobblestone streets, we reached our destination. Worth it at the time, but looking back it was probably pretty stupid of me to walk that whole time in flip flops knowing I'd be running a marathon soon. Oh well, life's all about learning from mistakes, right?:)

Since the area of Barcelona that we woke up in on Monday morning didn't seem too safe, Ryan and I opted to do my 20minute Tempo run in Granada on Monday night. You know, after walking around all day being a tourist. Surprisingly, the workout went even better than it was supposed to go, but WOW did my calves burn the next day.

TUESDAY: after our tempo at 9pm, we spent a little time looking for this cute bar that was recommended by a friend, just to find out it was closed on Mondays. Bummer. So, we got to sleep around 12:30am and had to wake up at 6:30am to run to the Alhambra (2miles away) to stand in line for tickets. Ryan nicely stood in line while I went to finish the rest of my run:) Other tourists definitely thought we were crazy, but hey, we got tickets to visit the Alhambra, so what do we care! We spent the rest of Tuesday exploring the Alhambra and then taking a 5hour train to Madrid so we could catch our 11:30am flights in the morning.

WEDNESDAY: Ryan and I woke up and dragged ourselves out of bed to manage a 4.5mile run just to get something in before 9 hours of traveling. We tried to stay awake the entire flight so we'd be on the normal time schedule. Thankfully, it worked and we both felt good in the morning. We even went out to dinner with my parents upon our return home:)

THURSDAY: last workout-- 3miles at Marathon Pace. Ryan and I woke up at 6:30am to do this without any problems...kind of crazy since our bodies should have still been 7 hours ahead! The workout went well and I was constantly holding myself back, surprising considering our crazy travel yesterday!

FRIDAY: 7miles nice and easy to relax the legs. Ironically, I worked in Milwaukee today.

SATURDAY: nice, easy 5miles with the LifeTime Run Club and 3 strides after. I'm READY.

And the race recap begins....